posts tagged with 'boating'

multimodal exploration of Fairhaven Bay

A week or two ago we set out to explore a new bit of land, spanning Concord and Sudbury between Walden Pond and the river. We started out by visiting Mount Misery, as described here; that was fun, but we didn't actually make it into Adams Woods or Wright Woods, where I had actually thought of visiting. So I searched for an alternative entrance to the Wright Woods and found a closer way in, off of Sudbury Rd in Concord. Our first trip there turned into an epic two-hour walk around Fairhaven Hill, with many delightful sights along the way.

Blue looking out at Fairhaven Bay from by the boathouse

Blue looks at the Bay

One highlight was Fairhaven Bay, and the old boathouse looking out over this unexpected stretch of open water in the middle of the Sudbury River. The path went by an old boathouse, which was a lovely place to stop for a snack; we only we could have found some way to get into it! We also enjoyed climbing on an old ruined chimney (pictured here) and scrambling on some rocky cliffs above the river.

Harvey and Elijah on rocks above a steep hillside

cliffs are hard to photograph

Writing on the internet suggested there were some cliffy trails to explore, but even though we walked for a while we didn't find them. A long while, actually: doing a loop all around Fairhaven Hill was maybe a bit much. We've been doing lots of hiking lately, though, so we all survived.

Harvey carrying Elijah piggypack in the woods

kind brother

A couple days later we revisited the woods, this time by water. We put the canoe in at a launch near Mount Misery (which required paddling through a very shallow, algae-infested channel) and headed downstream into Fairhaven Bay. On the way we passed by the beach where Zion swam on our first visit; it was even more fun reaching it by boat. Even though the weather was sunnier we were all happy enough to be on the water that nobody felt like it was necessary to go in it.

the canoe pulled up on a beach on the Sudbury River

beached

There was enough breeze to make paddling across the middle of Fairhaven Bay exciting; you don't expect waves like that on a river trip! It was a beautiful sparkling day though, and it felt absolutely delightful to be out on the water. We saw just one other group paddling, in a pair of canoes, and we greeted each other enthusiastically—just knowing we were both doing the loveliest possible thing at that particular moment.

Zion paddling the canoe in the middle of Fairhaven Bay

just the best

At the other side of the bay we reached the boathouse. I only wish there was a little more water, though, since right now the river is too low to get into it. The little streams coming out of the Adams woods were also impassible due to low water, but around them we saw lots of interesting birds.

cormorants, one spreading its wings, standing on the mud

there were also geese and swans

But while the boating was fun, it didn't get us any nearer to finding the big cliffs. And nobody wanted to walk all that way again. So this past Sunday we went back with bikes. And it turns out that the Wright Woods is great for cycling, with trails that are smooth enough for even Lijah's 16-inch wheels (though his fearlessness in attacking obstacles did lead to some nervous moments for me!) and plenty of fun downhill segments. And the cliffs! Approaching them we were forced off the bikes in short order.

the boys pushing their bikes up a steep hill

push!

That may not look all that steep in the picture, but I assure you that even at that point it was just about unrideable. And it got crazier! The scramble up the last bit was a challenge even on foot!

the boys scrambling up a steep gorge

we can do it!

Disappointingly, the top was a rich person's yard. They did have a very cool boat-shaped observation platform and a nice firepit, but it wasn't really a place for us to linger (though of course we did pause for water and snacks just below the top). Still, we felt like we had conquered a real climb!

distant hills as seen through trees from atop Fairhaven Hill

the view from the top

After all those trips, we now feel like those woods have been pretty comprehensively explored. But that doesn't mean that we're done there: now that we know the place, we're ready to go back and have some fun!

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Labor Day boating

After our vacation we took a day and a half off from adventuring, but today being Labor Day we just had to get out for some summer fun! Harvey and I took a dawn bike ride, but that doesn't count—we do that on regular days too. No, the true Labor Day excitement was found in a canoe trip on the Concord River.

our boat approaching the Old North Bridge

what could be finer?

We could tell it was an appropriate way to observe the day because hundreds of other people had the same idea; it was easily the busiest day I've ever seen on the river. Cars were parked up and down the road by the ramp where we put in, and there were streams of boats coming from the rental place a little further on too. We had debated between putting in there versus the boat launch in Bedford, and I'm really glad we chose the upstream spot: the river in Concord is too shallow for powerboats, and I sure they were swarming downstream in Bedford and Billerica. Even a crowd of canoes and kayaks leaves plenty of space for other river users!

our boat pulled up on shore, three kayaks in the water beyond it

practically a traffic jam!

We were only out for about an hour and a half. We headed downstream first and stopped by at the Old North Bridge, which was crowded with a mix of boaters, cyclists, and people who just had to drive there (poor things). We walked around a bit but were disappointed to find the boathouse dock had been taken up—probably because the water was so low it would have been completely aground. So we reembarked and continued downstream, noting wildlife as we went. We tried to find exemplars of each type of animal, and were successful for most: insects (dragonflies were our favorite), amphibians (a frog), reptiles (many turtles), fish (um... fish), and birds (a great blue heron who was much less shy than we're used to). Unfortunately we didn't spot any muskrats, so our mammals category had to be filled by a gray squirrel.

a great blue heron quite close up

posing for its glamor shot

Then we went back upstream with the intention of visiting our secret harbor at the confluence on the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers. Of course, with the water level so low the cleft in a rock that we had poked the boat into many times before was about three feet above the surface of the water, so that didn't work. Of course, that also meant that anyone who wanted to could just get out and walk, which was kind of fun.

Zion and Elijah wading in the middle of the Concord River

can't do THAT in the spring!

We had thought of going up the Assabet a little ways too, but given that it didn't look to be deeper than 18 inches at any point we gave up that idea. Plus, Lijah was hungry. So we came home. We may not have had a cookout (that's on the schedule for tomorrow) but I think it's safe to say that Labor Day has been properly celebrated.

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our six-hour pond visit

Even though it got us all sick our outing a week ago was pretty fantastic, so I wanted to note some its positive aspects. Because there's not much better than boating with friends!

the view from our canoe to our friends' kayak on Walden Pond

delightful

Even though there was no forward planning—I just thought of the outing that morning and invited our friends at around 7:00—we were able to throw things together in time to meet at the pond at 8:30 (we had to make sure to get in before it closed!). We took a leisurely paddle across, and all around, the pond, then set up camp at a nice spot to swim. Of course, when there are boats pulled up on the shore they exert a powerful pull, and before too long the swimming was well-mixed with boating. Left on shore without a boat I could only hope they would come back! (Of course they would: I had the lunches!)

kids and boats out in the pond

can you spot them all?

As the morning wore on our beachy spot got a little crowded, so we re-loaded the boats and headed to another cove which, besides being less occupied, gave us a chance to swim in the shade! It was also right by the rail line, and we were lucky enough to be by the tracks right as a train went by. I should have shot a video!

Zion and Lijah holding their ears as a train roars by ten feet away

whoooooosh

Soon afterwards our friends needed to head home. We saw them off, stopped by the bathroom, then re-embarked to find a quiet spot to have lunch. People definitely spread out more at Walden now than they did pre-Covid, so it took us a while to find a private space—we never would have managed it without a boat! After lunch I tried to nap while the boys swam, then I joined them for some water play. Then finally it was time to leave—not to go home, but to visit the Farmers Market in Lexington. What a full day!

Lijah sleeping in his car seat

zzz

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stress, relief

It remains hot here, so we want to be swimming. But there's also this virus thing that makes it a little more complicated and stressful. Our favorite swimming hole is Walden Pond, but even when we're not in the midst of a pandemic going there can be complicated, because there's a limit to how many people they let in before they close the gates until the crowd thins out. In ordinary years it's to keep the beach and trails from eroding too badly; now, obviously, it's to help us all socially distance. And of course the capacity is smaller that usual. That's all to set the scene for Saturday morning, when we planned on getting an early start, bringing the canoe and a lunch to the pond, and spending some hours there. Only "early" is relative, because when I checked at quarter past eight I found that it had already closed. At 7:36.

That was a blow, but we didn't despair: almost certainly it would reopen before lunchtime. So we started packing up, in between all the other work of the morning. Laundry and things. I was only checking Twitter—where the closings and openings are posted by @waldenpondstate—every fifteen minutes or so, so it wasn't until 10:20 that I saw that they'd reopened all the way back at 10:07! Luckily we've gotten somewhat better at getting out the door since back in June, and we were on our way in moments. We made it to the boat launch parking lot at 10:39, and were able to squeeze into what I was sure was the last parking spot available (no: one more family, better still at squeezing, came in after us). There was still lots to do before we could jump in the water—getting the boat off the car, changing into swimsuits, getting lifejackets and picnic supplies together—but we could take our time on all that. The stress and hurry was over!

It may seem silly to endure so much stress in search of relaxation, but I think it's worth it. After all, it's not like there's anywhere else we could go that would be much easier. Certainly nowhere closer! And once we were there, our stress—mine, anyways—just melted away. I enjoyed a leisurely conversation with the actual last family into the lot, who reported a very similar morning to ours; we paddled slowly across the pond and our boat didn't leak at all (unlike last time); we swam and floated and ate a peaceful lunch. I got to do some quiet reading, and even read aloud a little from our chapter book to the boys as they sat in the shallows (a first, for sure!). Harvey and Zion even piloted the canoe back across when it was time to go home, while I loafed in the bottom not even looking where we were going. It was a good time. We may even do it again one day.

Zion eating a sandwich sitting in the canoe

boat lunch

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boating

We took the canoe out this morning for the first time this year. Usually I'm the one to push for the boating, but I'm kind of a lump these days so the boys had to ask me more than once before I got going. Of course, once we were out on the water I was so glad they'd made me do it.

in the canoe on Walden Pond

the best of life

The trip could even be counted as homeschooling, because yesterday we were doing some experiments on what sinks and what floats, which led to a discussion of boats and an engineering challenge to create something that could float a brick in our wading pool. Elijah took to it with a will, and put together a beautiful craft.

Elijah holding up the boat he made

boatbuilder

The mast and flag was added after the brick trial. He found that his boat had enough buoyancy to hold the brick but not enough stability, so every time it tipped over—rather than improve it he thought to repurpose it as a conveyance for small plastic toys. He tells me the letters on the flag are just random.

Making the boats was challenging, and all three of us who attempted it found it hard to keep our seams from leaking. Funnily enough, we had the same problem with the canoe this morning: since last year a crack opened up in the bottom towards the bow which we found to let in water at a rate that, while not enough to feel like an emergency, was enough that we didn't want to try any long crossings. That was fine, though, since we had a perfectly satisfactory alternate activity available.

the boys swimming in the pond beyond the beached canoe

the best part of boating

And of course the swimming is better when you do it on purpose. Plans are afoot for swift repairs, because the boys want another boat trip soon!

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solstice on the river

The solstice this year was busy with celebrations: our community group's little party Harvey on Friday evening, two big parties for friends Saturday, and an end-of-the-year picnic at Church mid-day Sunday. Luckily, the Town of Concord scheduled solstice festivities for Sunday afternoon starting at one, so by hurrying we were able to get to the Old North Bridge in time to see mid-summer greeted in style!

our boat below the Old North Bridge, it covered with singers and bubbles

midsummer spectacle

Besides the solstice, we were also celebrating the Concord River and its tributaries, so the party was called Riverfest. It's happened for a few years now, but this is the first time we managed to make it—and now that we did, I'm sorry to have missed it before! So many fun things there. We started off making some art; Harvey was feeling grumpy, but the woman running the art table was so energetic and encouraging she drew him out of his funk, and once launched he worked on his project for quite a while. Lijah doesn't have patience for long-term projects, and after a few minutes he decided he wanted to get his face painted. I was amazed and proud to see him handle the whole thing, from standing in line to telling the young woman what he wanted to be (a white bunny) all by himself! The transformation was startling.

Lijah in white rabbit facepaint

yikes!

Next we listened to (and participated in!) some river-themed kids music. When that wrapped up we went for a little canoe trip downstream... but not very far downstream, because the current was running fast and we didn't want to work too hard on the way back! It felt very companionable with dozens of boats out on the river. Most of them weren't even taking any part in Riverfest, but that didn't mean they were enjoying the river any less! When we got back to the bridge the boys all went for a swim—even Harvey, who chose not to bring a swimsuit along on the trip. Never mind, the sun was hot!

the boys swimming in the Concord River, beyond the canoe

the only cool place

Then it was time for the most exciting part of the afternoon, the cardboard boat race. As tempted as I was to sign us up as participants, I though it would be more prudent to watch one year before jumping right in. So we spent a relaxing hour wandering among the busy teams of cardboard crafters and eating snacks. I think we learned some things about what it takes to get cardboard to float. As the race itself kicked off, we certainly witnessed plenty of examples of what not to do!

young people launching and sinking cardboard boats

is that what's supposed to happen?

As we talked about the festival in the days leading up to the solstice Mama decided that, all in all, it sounded like a little much to her. But as dinner time approached things were pretty calm, so I invited her to join us for dinner (plus, she could bring Harvey some dry clothes!). Some friends showed up just a little later, so the nine of us shared a peaceful picnic while listening to some lovely bluegrass/country/oldies played by an acoustic trio. Well, it was peaceful for the adults and Harvey... the four smaller boys entered into some freewheeling—and occasionally violent!—play with the other young picnickers.

the boys and other kids playing around a big rock

they all still have energy left!

As it started to get dark, the festival organizers started up a fire. While it wasn't totally the solstice bonfire I'd been anticipating, it was plenty big enough to toast the marshmallows they'd thoughtfully provided for smores. The boys wished there was enough to have more than one, but it was a pretty good-sized crowd.

Lijah eating a smore in smoke and sparks

fresh from the fire

The day concluded with a solstice singalong on the Old North Bridge, while those of us with boats paddled around beneath with candle lanterns glowing. Plus the bubble guy was there to make the atmosphere even more magical. What do you sing at a solstice singalong in Concord, MA? Some Beatles, a couple tunes from Hair, "This Land is Your Land"... stuff like that. As it got dark at last you could even start to see the lanterns.

singers on the Old North Bridge at twilight

singing in summer

Then we turned for home. The boys have fallen asleep in the car lots of times; this was the first time they ever did in the boat. We celebrated the heck out of that solstice!

the kids lying down in the canoe

shh!

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spring boating

I love living in a four-season climate. It's just delightful to welcome each change—and few are more delightful than the beginning of warm weather in the spring. We had our first hint of it last week, and we grabbed it with both hands. Saturday was the warmest. It was great to see everyone outside: playing on playgrounds, walking, cycling. Us, we walk and ride bikes all year round, so when it gets hot that's not how we want to bust out. No, what we did Saturday morning was get out on the water!

I had smugly expected to be the only one hardy to want to be out on the river in March, but there were three other cars at the boat launch: three other people passionate about their boating. Not that all four of us Archibalds were equally passionate. Harvey and Zion would have been ok playing with friends on our street, and Lijah seems sometimes to wish boats were never invented. That's because he's too little to paddle, so he gets bored, and when he gets bored he gets hungry, and when we run out of food he gets angry... but then, that's true any time so we might as well deal with his moods while floating peacefully down the wide Concord River.

It's wider than usual too, after a wet winter. We didn't go far—there were friends to play with at home after all—but we did manage to explore the marshes beyond the river banks, which is a uniquely springtime experience. And we only got stuck once, on the branches of partially submerged bushes, and nobody had to swim to get us free. We also landed on what, last year, we dubbed Mosquito Island; this early is the perfect time to explore it, since we didn't see a single one of the eponymous beasties.

The whole trip wasn't much longer than an hour (and the rest of the day saw plenty of running and jumping and even water balloons) but it was a great first outing. Here's to lots more in the next few months!

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on the water

the boys and I paddling on the smooth water of the river

going places in style

After a few practice runs taking our new canoe out on ponds, we felt ready to take on the Concord River. The trial run on Zion's birthday was a little rough, but Tuesday we mobilized the whole family for another go—with rather more success. You can see from the picture above that we've made some improvements to our fine vessel, the Green Gecko; the tent is essential to keep the sun off the cargo on these bright spring days.

Leah borrowed a kayak from friends so she could join us (and also took the morning off from work). Her boat goes faster than ours, but she was kind enough to wait up when we got too far behind.

Leah paddling a kayak on the wide Concord River

Mama leading the way

In Bedford the river feels hugely wide, but upriver into Concord it narrows significantly, and it felt more like river boating as we navigated the twists and turns. The current was much more noticeable in the confines space too, and navigating around all the fallen trees in the water was exciting!

the canoe in the smaller part of the river

into the heart of darkness

Our goal was the Old North Bridge, but as we made our creeping way upstream it became clear we weren't going to make it—especially since we needed to be back home for the next scheduled event safely before 3:00. Still, we couldn't go all that way without finding somewhere to go to. The Great Meadows bird sanctuary was a great consolation prize, and we had a pleasant picnic lunch on a bench by the riverbank. Then we explored a little. Just like last time we were there, the highlight was playing in the fords.

the boys splashing through the ford

shore leave excitement

After lunch we went a little further upstream before we hit our cut-off time, and turned around. It's a good thing the current was helping us along on the homeward trip, because we wouldn't have made it otherwise: our arms were about ready to fall off! The kids didn't work quite as hard, but after over three hours in the boat they well earned their riverside playtime back at the boat launch.

the boys playing in the river at the boat launch

journey's end

Since we were disappointed of the bridge Tuesday, Thursday the boys and I put in upstream on the Sudbury River and paddled down to it, with a brief excursion a little ways up the Assabet River. We were excited to make it to what felt like a fabled destination, though sadly my camera ran out of batteries so I wasn't able to capture our triumph. Even sadder because the light was beautiful as the morning's sunshine gave way to threatening overcast; overcast that threatened us right back upriver after just a few minutes play at the bridge (since we've been to the bridge by car and bicycle hundreds of times, the exciting part about this visit was tying up to a real dock at the Old Manse boathouse).

Both wind and current were against us as we headed back to the car. The wind was so strong we had to take down the tent, but that was fine since it was about as dark as night anyways. Harvey and I were a little concerned. Lijah, on the other hand, is now totally used to being in the boat, and lurched happily from side to side to lean over and put his hand in the water. It was easier when he was terrified! He even put in a good long stretch of "helping" with a paddle of his own (Harvey was very kind and patient to not throw him overboard).

I thought the whole trip was pretty quick, but when we got back to the car I found that it had been well over two hours. Oops! Time flies when you're on the water. It was great fun, but after all that work I think we all deserve a quiet, boating-free weekend.

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maiden voyage

As I mentioned, we bought a canoe. Then we had to wait while we procured paddles, life jackets, and some means of carrying the canoe to the water (in the meantime we played with it on land). All those objectives were achieved by this morning, so in the middle of the day we took a trip out to Walden Pond to see if it floats. It does!

the boys in the canoe on Walden Pond

out on the water

We've been to the pond hundreds of times, but none of those trips were as exciting as this one. From the dangerously steep, rutted lane down to the boat launch and the violent rocking of the boat as Zion and Lijah stepped aboard for the first time it was clear that this was a new level of adventure. The smaller boys, who didn't have paddling to distract them, were pretty nervous at first; Lijah especially looked like he wanted to kiss the sand at our first stop, on the other side of the pond. There, the boys explored for a few minutes and we had a picnic lunch. After about half an hour of paddling all around the pond, though, even Lijah was starting to get used to the motion. Then, as the sun broke through the clouds, we completed our circumnavigation and approached the old familiar beach—but so different, seen for the first time from the sea! Also there was nobody else there.

towels drying on the canoe pulled up on the beach

relaxation

The boys ran around a lot and swam a little, while I lay in the sun and thought about how lovely it is to be alive (and also some about Pokemon). Then they put the boat back in the water and experimented to see how tippy it really is. It's pretty stable, actually, but if you really want it to go over it sure will! I think it made them feel a little bit better about this whole boating business. Harvey, certainly, was emboldened enough to try a short solo voyage of his own!

Harvey out in the canoe by himself

practicing boldness

Harvey tells me it was a the best adventure we've ever done. Here's to lots more—even better!—in the months to come.

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this moment

Zion and Harvey in a canoe on the river

boating

A moment from the week.